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What is Mental Health? How does it work? What does it look like?

I've noticed that mental health is a significant topic in our society today, and I'm eager to understand it better. I've heard differing perspectives, but I'd appreciate a real-life explanation of what mental health entails, beyond what textbooks offer.

I understand mental health might vary across cultures, and I'm curious about the fundamental aspects that apply universally. Could you explain what mental health encompasses in practical terms, beyond just labeling someone as "crazy"?

I'm also interested in how people achieve and maintain mental well-being beyond typical suggestions like going outside and meditating. What are some practical strategies that genuinely contribute to a balanced mental state?

Furthermore, I'd like to understand what mental health isn't. There's a stigma around it, and I want to clarify misconceptions about mental health issues being a sign of weakness or something trivial.

Lastly, could you explain the different dimensions of mental health—how our thoughts, physical health, and emotions interconnect to influence our overall well-being? I'm looking for insights that go beyond academic definitions and provide a deeper understanding based on real-life experiences.

I'm approaching this topic with an open mind and a desire to learn more about mental health in a respectful and compassionate way. Any insights or personal experiences you can share would be invaluable to me. Thank you for helping me gain a clearer understanding of this important aspect of human health.

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Annah’s Answer

Kanwal, Great questions! I will not be able to succinctly answer some of them. I will try. I hope this adds to the other responses and provides you with a broader perspective. What is mental health? How does it work? What does it look like? I am a somatic art psychotherapist- I believe that mental health is mind and body health. This is a holistic view and encompasses mental/cognitive (brain functioning), emotional, spiritual, and physical aspects. All these parts of your being work together, and all these parts are important to develop. I work with energy - as everything is made of energy. Some ways I do this is working with the body through movement and the breath, introducing grounding exercises, and visualization. As for the dimensions question, you are talking about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. You can read about the CBT Triangle; there are images online. It is a simple but powerful concept. Most useful to know is that a change to one dimension affects all other dimensions. Mental health stigma is real, even with it being talked about more openly on social media and by public figures like celebrities. A term like, "crazy" takes away from the person experiencing the symptoms. It is an unhelpful label that does not take into consideration how complex mental illness can be. It also does not reflect how mental health can change over time. Not every diagnosis will be chronic (ongoing). Learning about your own mental health - because we all have brains, bodies, and feelings- will give you a sense about how to maintain or improve your health. This brings us to self-care! Self-care is personal and individual. It involves such things as getting good sleep, exercise, hygiene, spending time with friends and doing activities you enjoy, etc. It also may include the less obvious- recognizing your social threshold, creating healthy boundaries, prioritizing your own time (alone time/down time), and finding ways to stay hopeful in times of stress. Self-care routine(s) may change over time as you learn about yourself. And this is the tricky but amazing piece- life is constantly evolving. So being able to adapt in life will help you bounce back, problem solve, and stay on top of what you need. There are many ways to practice therapy- many diverse schools of thought. If you are interested in learning more, I suggest you explore the history of psychology and also counseling (as its own professional field). It sounds like you are a curious person; curiosity is crucial to the work of a therapist. It may also serve you well in all areas of life!
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Hwal’s Answer

Kanwal,

It seems like you have spent some time thinking about the topic and do have an open mind about it. To me, mental health is like a scale (of 0 to 10, for instance), where a higher number indicates better mental health vs a lower number indicating a poorer mental health. I think of my mental heath as the state of my mind, and how I'm doing in terms of my mental health changes constantly, kind of like a person's blood sugar level changes from moment to moment. So, for example, I may be at 9 on the scale when I wake up because I've had a good night's sleep, then at 6.5 just ten seconds later once I realise that Monday and I need to go back to work :)

I hope you find what I shared helpful. I'm a former registered mental health counsellor (in Australia) and now practicing medicine as a PA in the U.S., so let me know if you have any specific questions I can help with.

Hwal
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Violaine’s Answer

Hi Kanwal. Mental health refers to a person's overall psychological well-being, including their emotional, cognitive, and social functioning. It encompasses how individuals think, feel, and behave, as well as their ability to cope with stress, manage emotions, and navigate relationships. Mental health is influenced by various factors, including biological, psychological, environmental, and social factors.

Here's how mental health works and what it looks like:

1. **Biological Factors:** Biological factors, such as genetics, brain chemistry, and neurobiology, play a significant role in mental health. Imbalances in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain), genetic predispositions, or changes in brain structure and function can impact a person's mental health.

2. **Psychological Factors:** Psychological factors, including thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and coping strategies, influence mental health. Cognitive processes such as perception, interpretation, and problem-solving can affect how individuals perceive and respond to stressors and challenges.

3. **Environmental Factors:** Environmental factors, such as life experiences, trauma, family dynamics, socioeconomic status, and cultural influences, shape mental health. Adverse childhood experiences, social support networks, access to resources, and exposure to discrimination or violence can impact mental well-being.

4. **Social Factors:** Social factors, such as relationships, social support, and community connections, are crucial for mental health. Positive social interactions, meaningful relationships, and a sense of belonging can promote resilience and protect against mental health challenges.

Mental health can vary from person to person and may fluctuate over time. Here are some signs of good mental health:

- Feeling a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life
- Having positive relationships and strong social support networks
- Being able to cope with stress and adapt to changes
- Feeling confident and capable of achieving goals
- Experiencing a range of emotions and being able to express them appropriately
- Having a sense of self-worth and self-esteem
- Being able to maintain a balance between work, leisure, and personal responsibilities

Conversely, poor mental health may manifest in various ways, including:

- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Withdrawal from social activities or relationships
- Irritability, mood swings, or anger outbursts
- Substance abuse or self-destructive behaviors
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, or fatigue

It's important to note that mental health exists on a continuum, and everyone experiences ups and downs in their mental well-being. Seeking support from mental health professionals, practicing self-care, and accessing resources and support networks can help individuals maintain and improve their mental health.
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Karim’s Answer

Dear Kanwal:
Mental Health is about acceptance, is about resilience and how to learn to deal with situations without affecting your feelings. Of course, depends on many external and internal factor but most importantly, depends on each individual. Personally, I think one good achievement to reach a good mental health should be eliminating tags in ourselves or other people. Luckly, every year and every generation is more interested in this topic so this will be awesome for the generations to come.
The dimensions of mental health are interconnected with all that we do, having one of them bad means that the rest aren't going to work properly. The first step that we must understand is that when we comprehend ourselves, we can understand everybody else. Working in ourselves is not easy, but it can be accomplished over the time. Is with constancy that we can achieve it.
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Racheal’s Answer

Hi Kanwal,
Thank you for your question. First, let's refrain from using the word "crazy!" I think even the thought of it creates a barrier from being open to the diversity that exist with mental health. Secondly mental health issues are extremely diverse and not as simple as an explanation, be it a text book or not. Real world examples are actually all around you; what do I mean? You wouldn't know if someone is dealing with mental health unless they gave you substantial proof. The way in which someone deals with distress is individual. We are giving textbook because it is the average accounts that come from the actual real world.
Secondly there a several components that come into play such as biological, social, sociocultural so its not as easy as, "yes this is mental health!" Even in therapy, it takes time to get to know a client, peel back layers to understand what has happened and what is happening, again, not an overnight process.
I would suggest starting with the textbook first, because it's a process, which is why people No one can become a therapist or counselor without training for yrs.
I wanted to answer this because I see this type of question often, however, its not a simple black and white answer. If someone does give you a simple answer, I would encourage you to speak to more people.

I know I did no give an case study response, however, I want to give you feedback in the profession in a general manner.
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